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Any hope that daybreak would bring an end to the violence was soon laid to rest. During the final pre-dawn hours of June 1st, thousands of armed whites had gathered along the fringes of downtown. They were divided into three main groups. One crowd assembled behind the Frisco freight depot, while another waited nearby at the Frisco and Santa Fe passenger station. A third crowd had assembled at the Katy passenger depot. All told, the white rioters may have numbered as many as 10,000.

Smaller bands of whites had also been active. One such group hauled a machine gun to the top floor of the Middle States Milling Company grain elevator off of First Street, setting up the gun to fire north along Greenwood Avenue. Shortly before daybreak, five white men in a green Franklin automobile approached the whites who were massed behind the Frisco freight depot. "What the hell are you waiting on?" one of the men hollered, "Let's go get 'em." But the crowd would not budge, and the men in the car set off alone toward Deep Greenwood. Their bodies, and the bullet-ridden Franklin, were later seen in the middle of Archer, near Frankfort.

Several eyewitnesses later recalled that when dawn came, at 5:08 a.m., an unusual whistle or siren was sounded, perhaps as a signal for the invasion to begin. In any event, the white mobs soon made their move. While the machine gun in the granary opened fire, the white rioters poured across the Frisco tracks. Up at the Katy depot, the stream of whites on foot was soon joined by dozens of others in cars, heading east on Brady and Cameron. While African Americans fought hard to protect the black commercial district, the sheer numerical advantage of the whites soon proved overwhelming. John Williams, an entrepreneur who resided in the family owned Williams Building at Greenwood and Archer, held off the white invaders with both a rifle and a shotgun before he fled north, along the Midland Valley tracks. Mary E. Jones Parrish, who later wrote the first book about the riot, also fled. Dodging bullets, she and her young daughter ran north up Greenwood Avenue toward the section line at Pine Street.

Soon, however, other perils appeared. As whites poured into the southern end of the African American district, as many as six airplanes, manned by whites, appeared overhead, firing on black refugees and, in some cases, dropping explosives. Gunfire also erupted along the western edge of The Black Wall Street. Particularly fierce fighting broke out along Standpipe Hill, where forty to fifty National Guard soldiers traded fire with African American riflemen, who had set up defensive lines off of Elgin and Elgin Place. On Sunset Hill, the white guardsmen opened fire on black neighborhoods to the east, using both their standard issue 30-caliber 1906 Springfield rifles, as well as the semi-automatic machine gun given to them by the Tulsa Police Department.

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